They’ve lasted this long, and they will still be here to enjoy when the current coronavirus crisis has passed (and long after…). Find comfort in this homage to a few of the oldest historical monuments across the globe, age-old facts of human persistence – and some bloody sound architecture.
These are exceptional times as we’re all stuck at home honouring the new regulations of governments around the world, in order to battle the coronavirus. Maybe you had big plans to finally go visit the Statue Of Liberty this year, or you were – ever so reluctantly – just forced to cancel that long-awaited trip to Paris to climb the Eiffel Tower.
But, even though this novel virus is one of the more major threats society has seen in recent times, it certainly has not been the first crisis in the history of mankind. Many of today’s historical monuments have withstood countless disasters and ordeals over the years… and, they’ll be awaiting your visit after we collectively get through this crisis too!
So keep your chin up, and enjoy this escape from your perpetual fortress of solitude. Here’s a tour of the most resilient and historical monuments around the world.
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First we go waaaaay back to Stonehenge (3100BC)
One of the oldest and most famous historical monuments in the world is Stonehenge in England. Scientists have been baffled for years by this mysterious collection of circular placed stones. Reportedly, some can singularly weigh up to 22 tonnes! Even though the wheel wasn’t invented yet, some “smaller” bluestones – which can still weigh up to 4 tonnes – have been traced some 200 miles away.
As for the reason it was built, discussions have been in full swing for years. Was it a druid temple? An ‘ancient computer’ used to predict eclipses? A meeting place for the local chiefs of that age? Scientists cannot seem to settle the discussion. Two things they do agree on: it is very impressive and very old.
Due to these obvious reasons, countless people flock towards the rural landscape of Salisbury on a yearly basis. When you see it, the first thing that comes to mind is that it must’ve been a huge collective effort – solely using simple tools and technologies – to realise what we can witness nowadays. Well, maybe not physically right now, but luckily, Stonehenge also offers a free virtual tour for everyone currently self-quarantining.
Humanity was busy that year… The Pyramids of Giza (3000BC)
Another oldie-but-a-goldie – and just as mysterious of a construction – are the pyramids of Giza. They are located just south of Cairo, the capital of modern-day Egypt. These man-made architectural marvels have astounded many people across the globe for centuries.
Whereas it is known that the pyramids are a necropolis – a collection of tombs for the almighty pharaohs of that age – many other questions still remain. How in the name of the sun god Ra were they able to make such huge constructions? To give you a more concrete (which also wasn’t invented yet, *badum tss*) idea, some sources report that over 2,500,000 lime stones were used to build the biggest pyramid, each weighing 2300kg. That means that each block was the equivalent of roughly 4.5 grizzly bears!
Discussion is still out on the pyramids’ exact age and how long it took to build them. Usually they are claimed to be from roughly around the same time as Stonehenge, approximately 2500-3000BC.
It all started with a sewer: Forum Romanum (800BC)
The Roman Forum is generally considered to be the birthplace of the Ancient Roman Empire. Its conception dates back to roughly 800BC, when the originally swampy burial plot was drained by the “Cloaca Maxima” (Latin for: “great sewer”). The Cloaca Maxima was one of the first sewer systems in the world. After draining the plot, making it very attractive for further development, it quickly evolved into the “Forum Romanum”.
Forums, Latin for market or square, were a common concept across cities in the empire. At said forums, people gathered to trade, talk politics and religion, or even hold elections. But many more and other processes of society took place in and around the forum. Consequently, important buildings were built all around the forum, including places of worship and politics and other architectural treasures. Over centuries, multiple emperors (including Caesar), built and developed the area further.
The Forum Romanum soon became the beating heart of the Great Roman Empire. Over time, other forums were added in the area to support the Forum Romanum in coping with the large scale of people and activities. But as all good things come to an end, so did the Roman Empire, and therefore the Forum Romanum in all of its splendour and beauty.
For a long time the Forum Romanum was forgotten, until interest sparked again in the 1800s, and excavations of the historical site started. This history of long-term neglect is noticeable walking through the ruins today. But with a little bit of imagination, you can easily imagine how buzzing, impressive and stunning it must have been.
And, to kill two birds with one stone: the well-known (and beautiful) Colosseum is only a stone’s throw away!
When goddesses were still gifted buildings: The Parthenon (447BC)
The Acropolis (or “high city” in Greek) is the famous central hill in Athens and a beautiful place where many historical monuments are located, including the Parthenon. The Parthenon was initially built as a place of worship for the goddess Athena, the patron of Athens. But, the Parthenon has been a jack of multiple trades throughout its lifetime; it has been a temple, a church and a mosque.
Around the end of the 1600s, disaster struck. Massive damage was inflicted on the Parthenon when the Venetians and Turks were fighting over the city. The Acropolis was – of course – a very strategic military station, due to its high vantage point. That means explosives were stored within the Parthenon that – you can feel it coming already – went off and blew away half the structure. It left huge damage to this ancient gem.
But, let’s look on the bright side – much of it is still remaining! Which is admirable, since there’s been a lot more the monuments of the Acropolis have had to withstand: fires, earthquakes and many other (natural) disasters.
This day and age, bits and pieces of the Parthenon are scattered all over the world. For example at the Great British Museum in London and at the Louvre, in Paris. And both of these museums have a big array of online content or even virtual reality tours to give you a little taste of what to expect. Should you want to stick with the real deal, you can have a look around the Acropolis online as well.
How could I forget? It was already forgotten once… Petra (100BC)
The historic “lost city” of Petra, Jordan is another relic of human civilization. Petra, often referred to as the 8th wonder of the ancient world, once was a beautiful ancient city carved into the red rock face. This was done by the Nabatean people, an Arab civilization who created this now-historical monument upon settlement.
Coincidentally, Petra’s favorable location became an important junction for many different trade routes. This quickly made the Nabatean kingdom flourish for centuries. It was known for its culture, architecture and other human ingenuities. Unfortunately, Petra became a victim to the Roman empire. From the 14th century onwards, Petra was completely forgotten by the Western world (hence “the Lost City”), and remained so for roughly 300 years. Until, in 1812, Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt – who had heard about legends – tricked a local to take him to the city. His “re-discovery” reinstated the original admiration for the splendour and the beauty of Petra within the international community.
A youngster compared to the other historical monuments: Mont Saint-Michel (1100-1600’s)
Much younger than the other historical monuments, but too quirky (and stunning…) not to mention: Mont Saint-Michel was built on a quaint tidal island overlooking gorgeous landscapes off the coast of France. The gorgeous abbey (dedicated to the archangel Saint Michael) is towering over everything and impossible to miss.
The surroundings of the island are very much subject to the tides. Reportedly, the island experiences the highest tidal contrasts in all of Europe. It supposedly can change 15 meters in only 6 hours!
Whereas Mont Saint-Michel has mainly become a place of pilgrimage, countless tourists flock there on a yearly basis to witness the spectacular nature, tidal changes and stunning architecture. Should the direct vicinity of the Mont Saint-Michel be fully submerged, you can access the commune by the permanent pathway. The summer allows you to explore the amazing surroundings of Mont Saint-Michel further. Then, only at low tide, you can walk around on the mudflats and see the amazing flora and fauna up close. Should you wish to do this on a visit, it is safest and most educational to do it through a guided tour.
Not only is the architecture stunning, but Mont Saint-Michel is also further proof of human ingenuity surviving countless challenges. For example, the surroundings of Mont Saint-Michel have been subject to silting for years now. The entire area has undergone massive development to turn the island back into a visual phenomenon.
So, consider this a love-letter to these beautiful historical monuments which all resemble true feats of human persistence and the reluctance to give up. Let’s bundle our powers together again, listen to the experts and collectively counter this devastating virus. If the Parthenon can survive a bombing, Egyptians can build the pyramids of Giza without any modern machinery and if Johann Ludwig Burckhardt can trick his way back into a city that was forgotten for centuries… we can do this too!